The Case of the Flaky Head....(my Boy Has Dandruff)

Updated on March 05, 2016
L.U. asks from Kirkland, WA
20 answers

My son is 13 years old and has bad dandruff. We have been trying different things, but it goes away for a bit and then comes back (within days).
He uses Head & Shoulders shampoo. When he gets out of the shower we put tea tree oil on his head and massage it in. He has VERY thick hair (although it's short!) and sweats easily.
He is embarrassed by it,as it will just sit on his jacket or shirt if he moves his head.
I am at a loss and don't know what else we can do. It is not something I have ever had to deal with, nor has my husband.
Anyone have any tried and true methods for getting rid of dandruff?! Thanks mamas

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So What Happened?

Thanks for the suggestions! I will definitely try some of them, the T-gel thing probably will be the first.
His hair is black so his flakes show up from afar as well. I had the conversation of "wash your HEAD, not just your hair" the other day because I too wonder if that is one of the issues.
Puberty is playing a mean little trick on him with his voice changing, his face breaking out, his hair flaking, and getting a little "funky."
Thanks for the advice!!

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answers from Portland on

Great question - I have a son with bad dandruff. He also has allergies and eczema and I've often wondered if it's related. None of my other kids has it.

I am going to try the T-Gel and Nizoral (thanks mommas).

We use Head and Shoulders (the active deep cleanse sport one because he has oily thick hair too) and Selsum Blue. While I'm not noticing any flakes, he does complain his head is always still itchy. For my kid, that's what bothers him the most.

This is what I do - and it's only temporary relief - but he has a very (very) fine tooth flexible comb. He has me go through this hair with it and I very (very) gently get clumps of his dandruff off. He had a cradle cap and this is what I did for that also. Super gentle, because otherwise it irritates his scalp.

I'm definitely going to give those shampoos a go though. They sound promising.

Thanks for posting :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Never had luck with head and shoulders. Try something with coal tar in it like t-gel. Get the store's generic since they are all the same and you'll save money. It smells terrible but it works.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

i'm sad and somewhat embarrassed to say that i'm having up close and personal experience with this right now. i'm in the throes of the worst case of dandruff i've ever had as an adult.
after a good huddle with my pharmacist, here's what i've learned......
despite our vaunted modern technology, doctors still don't really know what causes dandruff, other than there seems to be a fairly wide spectrum of causes. so you have to faff about with different solutions.
i tried a shampoo with salicylic acid for a week. it honestly made it worse. gah!
selenium sulfate (selsun blue) seemed to be starting to beat it back for a few days, but then it came roaring back as bad as ever.
nizoral (which treats fungal dandruff) is on its way right now. thanks, amazon prime!
and then there's stinky old coal tar (t-gel).
and the home remedies of listerine, baking soda, apple cider vinegar and so forth.
give each one a good week to see if it's having an effect. it's tempting to switch when a day or two doesn't help, but apparently you need to let it have a good crack at it.
good luck to both of us!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

Pick up several sample bottle medicated shampoos such as Selson Blue, T-Gel. Try each one for a few days and see which one works best.

I have heard but never tried... Vinegar rinse will clear dandruff. Dandruff can be a yeast infection.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I come from a long line of dandruffy people and my kids are continuing it. My 11 year old is the worst because he doesn't shower daily and doesn't care that his head of very dark hair looks like a salted pretzel. You can literally see his flakes from several feet away. It's so gross. We were at a doctor's appointment a couple of days ago and I had her bring it up. We changed over to Selsun Blue Medicated and will see if that helps and then move through the rest of the OTC products like T-gel and Nizoral if it doesn't.

In my experience, dandruff is something that is managed by shampoo and scalp treatments but not cured. You have to use them every day, forever. The only "cure" for me has been dietary. I did a full detox diet 2 years ago (basically a strict elimination diet) and part of the detox protocol was to change to non-toxic personal care products towards the end of the 3 weeks. I humored the process by changing out my head and shoulders for some natural shampoo that I get at Trader Joe's and was surprised that my dandruff didn't come roaring back. However, when I slacked off on the dietary changes and allowed sugar, grains, dairy, etc. back into my diet on a regular basis, the dandruff came back. So for me, a clean diet = healthy scalp. My sons are never going to give up their bread and cheese and milk and sugar (unless they decide to do so as adults) so for them, it's maintenance with topical treatments like shampoo.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Wausau on

Overuse of tea tree oil can be drying and make a flake problem worse. If you're using Head & Shoulders, stop using TTO. He needs to make sure he is rinsing the shampoo out very well. Try a vinegar rinse once per week to remove any leftover residue.

If the flakes still keep up, see a dermatologist. Sometimes dandruff is caused by a fungal infection and needs a cream to make it go away.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Take him to a dermatologist. If home remedies have not worked and he is embarrassed by it, it is time for medical intervention IMHO.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

When I had a rash on my chin during my first pregnancy, it was finally determined to be a form of dermatitis and the dermatologist recommended using Nizoral (prescription at the time). It worked and the rash was gone in a week or 2. I had asked a question not long ago about apple cider vinegar because my head has gotten so dry and itchy lately. I got some great suggestions. I am currently using 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar and 2/3 water mix to rinse my hair before shampooing ( I message it in and let it sit for a minute or 2). It has been working pretty well actually. The vinegar smell is gone once my hair is dry so it does not really linger long. I also changed my shampoo to silicon and paraben free. The only one I could find near me without paying big bucks is by Garnier. I think it is called Free Clear or something like that.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

T-gel by neutrogena. It smells awful but it works like nothing else. Shampoo, leave in while he's washing the rest of him, then rinse out.

ETA: I tried a vinegar rinse, olive oil, and milder shampoos. Only the t-gel worked for me. I used it every day until it was under control, and now I only have to use it about once a month.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Orlando on

I would try something for more then a week, natural products take a month or more to show good results. He may need to add some tea tree oil to his shampoo and just use it everyday. Apple cider vinegar works well too but then you have that vinegar odor, so maybe at night.

I don't know what causes most cases of dandruff, but I have noticed that my step daughter and my daughter both got it when they started puberty so it could be hormones. You may need to treat this from the inside, could be his body is flushing out bad stuff (processed foods, etc.). We never think about the foods (junk food) we eat and how they effect our bodies.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Happens with our son too (and he's got a brush cut).
Try dissolving an uncoated aspirin into the little bit of shampoo he uses to wash his hair.
When he soaps up, he should do his head first, then leave the suds on his head while he washes the rest of him, then rinse his head off last.
This will let the little extra salicylic acid work on his scalp for a bit.
It seems to help keep the flakes at bay for awhile.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

oh man....I think you are doing too much. His body is over stimulated. Stop using the tree oil.

Take him to a dermatologist and have his hair and scalp checked out. He might have a chemical imbalance as well.

Tell him NOT to wash his hair EVERY DAY - every OTHER day instead. Let his body have a chance to lubricate his scalp.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

Here's two ideas for you, mom.

One, at night before he goes to bed, massage Listerine into his scalp.

Two, have him use baking soda and brown apple vinegar to wash his hair.

Give these two methods a couple of weeks and see how it goes...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I'm sure you have already done this, but I just had to give my 13 yr old boy a quick refresher in scrubbing and rinsing his hair. His hair wasn't looking clean after his showers. I don't think he was taking enough time and effort to rinse? And every once in a while he would have patches that looked like cradle cap. Whatever changes he made are working now.

Also, before his next shower try loosening up the dry scalp with a comb, kind of like exfoliating, so it washes out easier for him. Is it possible that in trying to get rid of this, he is washing his hair too often, especially in the dry winter months? Maybe go to every other day?

Good luck to your boy...middle school can be hard enough without extra worries!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Elmira on

Only shampoo strong enough for me is Nizoral. You might consider taking him to the dermatologist there are some medicated sprays and shampoos that can make a difference.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

I had dandruff earlier this year and googled home remedies. I made a scrub with baking soda and lemon juice and scrubbed my scalp in the shower. I rinsed that out. Then I did an apple cider vinegar rinse. It worked perfectly doing it just the one time...100%. I think it was the vinegar honestly.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

T-gel by Neutrogena which others have mentioned worked best for my son.


answers from Springfield on

with a dry skin issue i would suggest taking an omega oil suppliment and having the hardness of your water tested.


answers from Tyler on

This is going to sound really bizarre, but have you change lightbulbs to the new swirly florescent bulbs? My daughter, who always struggled with eczema, began suffering bad dandruff after we switched to the new lightbulbs in her bedroom. I read somewhere that the bulbs may be a cause and switched back. No surprise, her dandruff cleared up. We have a stockpile of regular bulbs at this point, don't know what we will do for her when that source is depleted. It's worth a try.



answers from Los Angeles on

I have really liked coconut oil for dry scalp for my boys. Makes their hair oily for a couple of days afterward (even after washing) but it took away cradle cap really well. Not sure if dandruff is really the same thing, so maybe it won't work. Also I am not sure if tea tree oil would have the same effect, so maybe it's essentially something you've already tried. But maybe worth a shot? Also have you explored something in his diet that might cause a dry scalp? Or try some different shampoos. I had dandruff for a while in high school, but head and shoulders made my head really itchy and did not really help. Poor guy, I hope you can find something that works!

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